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Old 1st July 2010, 08:52 PM   #1
RSLancastr
 
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If you haven't already, please read CHAPTER 0: PROLOGUE

Sorry this is so long. I summarized where I felt I could!

STOPJAMESVANPRAAGH ========== RSL IN JVPLAND - CHAPTER 1: DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE

==========

vanpraagh.com has sections which promote his books, CDs and appearances, but the most

active and important parts of the site are the message board (similar in function

to the JREF forum) and a series of Chat rooms, where people can share their

thoughts about Van Praagh and his beliefs, and also look to others for comfort and

understanding when they are facing hard times (eg, the death of a loved one). It is

this last part which makes being a skeptic there very "touchy." If someone has recently

lost a loved one and goes to such a site seeking comfort and support for their loss,

they will not be very receptive to (and may even be more deeply entrenched in their

beliefs by) a skeptic who, unaware of that person's loss, is expressing his or her

disbelief in Life After Death.

I read through the site's policies on posting and chatting. Nothing out of the

ordinary.

I had decided to be open and up-front about my skepticism and my reasons for being

there. I did not want to create the StopJVP site later and be accused of spying on

their site.

My first move in this "openness" was to create my account there with the user name

"RSLancastr." This is not only the same User Name I use on the JREF forum, but the same

one I have used everywhere I've been online since I logged into the Internet in 1996 or

so.

After I created my account, my next move was to add a message topic to their message

board (similar to creating a new Thread on the JREF forum). I found no section set

aside for "introducing a new member" topics, so I picked another section and created a

topic "Who is RSLancastr?" in which I introduced myself. I did not save a copy of it,

but I remember it including my name, the fact that I was a skeptic, URLs to both my

StopKaz and StopSylvia sites, and the fact that I had come to vanpraagh.com as part of

my research to decide whether or not my next Stop site would focus on him.

As I pressed Submit/Post on the Topic, a window popped up reminding me that all posts

had to be approved by the site's administrator before being made available for others to

read. It was probably part of the Message board Policies I had quickly read, but it

hadn't "sunk in" I guess. I went ahead and clicked "OK" and wondered if my post would

ever see the light of day.

I then wandered into the Chat Rooms area. They have several rooms there: a Lobby, which

is the default room when you enter, and six or seven other rooms for more specific

purposes. I entered the lobby. there were a handful of other users already there.

Soon, another user, with "administrator" as part of her name, entered the room, and I

received an invitation to enter into a "private chat" with her. I accepted, and the two

of us were then alone in a chat room where nobody else could read our conversation.

She introduced herself as Cammy, the administrator of the whole site. She then told me

that there was a problem with my post. It included URLs to my sites, and, she said,

vanpraagh.com had a strict "no URLs" policy. for reasons of privacy and safety, they do

not allow URLs, email addresses, and other such things to be shared in message board

posts OR in chat room conversations.

I apologized for the unintentional violation of site policy, and asked if there were any

other problems with the post. She told me that she hadn't noticed any, but that she

would give it another, more thorough read, and that she had already sent a copy of it to

Mr. Van Praagh for his approval. I didn't ask, but I figure that last part was not done

with ALL new posts, but that she felt mine needed approval from The Man himself.

We both returned to the Lobby, where I soon found myself talking about my Skepticism

with everyone there. The Admin left for elsewhere. It seemed that everyone was waiting

for me to show my "obnoxious, know-it-all side. Just like the JREF forum gets

"believer" trolls here to show us all The Truth about psychics/UFOs/Bigfeet/whatever and

to stir the pot, there are skeptical trolls who go to the "believer" forums and do the

same. So, when I came in and announced that I am a skeptic, what I had intended as

"up-front and honest" instead came across - to some - as "in-your-face and obnoxious."

They were all waiting for me to drop the "reasonable/respectful" facade and start

telling them all that they were stupid for believing what they did.

After chatting with them for a while, a user named "JVP" entered the chat lobby.

I wondered if it could be Van Praagh himself, or someone - believer or skeptic -

masquerading as him. It soon became evident that the others in the room believed it was

him. They became absolutely giddy that he was there - similar to how JREF forumites get

when Randi posts in a thread.

"JVP" had come into the chat Lobby in time to catch part of the Q&A about my skepticism,

and so asked "RSLancastr, what brings a skeptic here?" (Note that all of the chat

between us is from memory - I did not capture the chat sessions to saved text files).

I said that it was probably not something I should discuss in a public room. (If my post

was being held for approval because something in it was verboten, I didn't want to say

the same thing in a chat room and get banned.) "JVP" said "fine, why don't you pick

another chat room where you and I can talk more privately?" I got a list of the rooms,

and picked one called "The Quiet Room" described as a place where chatters can talk

quietly away from the louder rooms."

I re-entered the Lobby, told "JVP" that I would be in the Quiet Room, and then went

there. A few moments later, "JVP" entered the room. I told him that I was there doing

research for a skeptical web site I was considering creating.

He started off asking if he had my permission to call me "Robert."

I said that he did.

He asked if I was skeptical of psychics/mediums in general, or just of him.

I told him that I had been researching psychics in recent years.

"Like who?" he asked.

"Well, to start with, Sylvia Browne."

"NAILS?!?! Robert, I am NOT Sylvia Browne!!"

"I see."

"Robert, I have helped THOUSANDS of people!"

"Sylvia Browne says the same thing."

"Robert, I am NOT Sylvia!!"

A few moments later he said

"There is a web site that you might enjoy, called "Stop Sylvia Browne"

I felt like I should look around to see if I was on Candid Camera or something. James

Van Praagh was recommending my ownskeptical web site to me!

"Yes, it's my site."

"YOURS? NO WAY - IT'S BRILLIANT!!"

"Thanks! But I think you should know that I am here doing research for a similar site I

hope to build about you."

"Robert,you disappoint me!"

It was about this time that he made some very nasty comments about James Randi. I am a

little embarrassed that I didn't just log out right then and there, but My Susan later

pointed out - and she may well be right - that he may have thought that I was

Randi, and hoped to flummox Randi into dropping the "RSLancastr charade with some vile

insults. I simply told him that I loved and respected Randi and held him in high

regard. His last dig at Randi was the old "how can you takesomeone seriously who has an

adjective for a middle name" chestnut. I patiently explained the concept of a "stage

name" to him, which he of course already knew. He then asked

"Robert have you ever seen me give readings in person?

I told him that I had not, but that I had seen him give many on his "Beyond" TV show,

and had not been impressed.

He stressed that seeing him in person was a very different thing. He said that he

didn't think it fair for me to create a web site "attacking" him without seeing what he

does in person - meeting him - maybe even having dinner with him. He said that he and

British medium Tony Stockwell would be doing a show together in Laguna Beach, and that

he would be glad to send free tickets for me and Susan to see them there.

I checked the date for the show and then thanked him for the generous offer, but said

that I would be in Las Vegas that night (July 10) at a skeptical conference (TAM8!). I

also told him that we no longer lived in the Los Angeles area (I resisted the temptation

to say "Shouldn't you know that?", but were now in Salem, Oregon. Hadn't I read that he

would be in Oregon in June? He replied that he would be in Grant's Pass, Oregon on June

25th. He felt that the joint show with Stockwell would be more impressive, but that if

Grant's Pass was the only show we could make, he would be glad to send us free tickets

for that.

I thanked him again for the generous offer, but said that I would have to talk it over

with my wife before accepting. He said to just let him know, and that he was anxious to

explain the "mechanics of mediumship" to me.

Before returning to the Chat Lobby, I asked him how I could know that I had been

chatting with THE James Van Praagh. He seemed to be amused by this last fillip of

skepticism. He assured me that he was indeed James Van Praagh, but could think of no

way to prove it. Neither could I, so we left it at that and returned to the Lobby.

Oh, I forgot to mention: from the moment we entered the Quiet Room, other chatters who

had been in the Lobby drifted in and out of the Quiet Room and listened for a bit.

Making sure we were playing nice, I suppose.

In the lobby, some of them asked what I thought of JVP now. I said that he had been

very kind. I think they were hoping that he had somehow proved his "abilities" to me in

the Quiet room. Sorry, no. Just a friendly chat.

Later that day I learned- I forget where - that Van Praagh was going to be interviewed

on that night's episode of Coast To Coast AM with George Noory, a radio show

which promotes "woo" of al kinds.

I was mildly surprised that Noory was having a psychic on. He hadn't had Sylvia Browne

back on since her horrible mistake on his show during the Sago Mining Disaster (see the

article on StopSylvia) in which she seemed to say that she knew that the miners would be

found alive, but they were found dead a few minutes later while she was still on the air

with Noory. To Noory's credit, he called her on it, and was not satisfied with her

response, and has yet to have her back on the show. So, if he was having Van Praagh on

the show, evidently he had not soured on all psychics. Would he ask Van Praagh

to comment on Browne's mistake?

I decided I would give it a listen, but I first popped in here to create a thread about

it.http://www.internationalskeptics.com...d.php?t=175839

A half-hour or so before the Coast To Coast show was to start (10PM PST) I tuned into

the show and went back into the chat Lobby, where several chatters were gathered to

discuss the interview as it happened.

A few minutes before air time, "JVP" entered the lobby. Everyone wished him well with

the interview. Feeling left out, I offered my advice:

"JVP, here's my advice: No predictions about miners!"

He said "Robert, that's a "Nails" thing, right?"

I admitted that it was. I forget what his response was, if any. He then announced to

the room that he was leaving so he could get on the phone with Noory.

Inspiration struck.

RSL: JVP, why don't you say something during the interview so I will know it was you in

chat today!

JVP: like what?

RSL: Well,you could say hello to your new friend Robert Lancaster!

JVP: Tell you what. I'll say hello to everyone in the chat room. how's that?

RSL: Fair enough.

Several in the room were excited by this. "He's going to say hello to us!"

JVP bid us farewell and left the Lobby. We all settled in to listen to the interview.

People started chatting about the interview as it progressed.

Due, I suppose, to Internet lag time, some were hearing it a few minutes before the rest

of us.

At about 45 minutes in, someone said "RSLancastr, he just mentioned you!"

Someone else said "yes, he did!"

At about 48 minutes in, I heard James Van Praagh say something like "It's like I was

saying to my friend Robert in chat today..." followed by some "spiritual" saying.

So, yet another surreal moment to add to my collection:

James Van Praagh referring to me as a "friend" on an episode of Coast To Coast AM With

George Noory!


And, unless Noory interviewed the wrong man, it apparently was indeed Van Praagh I

chatted with in the Quiet Room that day!

Next: Chapter 2, which I haven't titled yet

Mod InfoThread closed; for continued discussion see: http://www.internationalskeptics.com...d.php?t=179581
Posted By:Locknar
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Who is "Kaz?" Read about her at www.StopKaz.com.

Curious about Sylvia Browne? Read about her at www.StopSylvia.com.

Ever wonder "What's the Harm?" with psychics, alternative medicine, etc?

Last edited by Darat; 6th July 2010 at 05:13 AM.
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Old 1st July 2010, 09:32 PM   #2
stephenenelson
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Nice work as ever, Robert! Hope to see you at TAM.
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Old 1st July 2010, 09:48 PM   #3
Floyt
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It will be interesting to see how the friendly attitude keeps up once he feels that he's getting under attack. Well, if you can do it, maybe so can he

Nice going!
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Old 1st July 2010, 10:35 PM   #4
Meed
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Very captivating read. Looking forward to more.
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Old 2nd July 2010, 07:06 AM   #5
ExMinister
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www.stopsylvia.com
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Old 2nd July 2010, 12:40 PM   #6
Severus Snape
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Excellent one, RSL!
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Old 2nd July 2010, 02:12 PM   #7
RSLancastr
 
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Originally Posted by Severus Snape View Post
Excellent one, RSL!
Thanks, Severus!
__________________
Who is "Kaz?" Read about her at www.StopKaz.com.

Curious about Sylvia Browne? Read about her at www.StopSylvia.com.

Ever wonder "What's the Harm?" with psychics, alternative medicine, etc?
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Old 5th July 2010, 01:16 AM   #8
Aepervius
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Originally Posted by RSLancastr View Post
all chapter in 1 post.

Last edited by Aepervius; 5th July 2010 at 01:43 AM.
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Old 5th July 2010, 10:22 AM   #9
RSLancastr
 
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Thanks, Aepervius!

I wish I could edit the OP to add that at the top - sort of a table of contents!
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Who is "Kaz?" Read about her at www.StopKaz.com.

Curious about Sylvia Browne? Read about her at www.StopSylvia.com.

Ever wonder "What's the Harm?" with psychics, alternative medicine, etc?
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